139. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community continues to monitor and assist the various locations throughout Africa which continue to suffer from human rights abuse, war, famine and genocide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 49534/13 asked on 19 Nov 2013)

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Ireland, along with our EU Partners, pursues a strategic and comprehensive approach to countries in Africa suffering the consequences of conflict or natural disaster. This approach encompasses political and diplomatic engagement, development cooperation programming, humanitarian assistance, and support for peacekeeping operations.

The progress in African countries, particularly those emerging from conflict, and the approach the EU should take to promote peace and security and development, is discussed at the EU Foreign Affairs Council. The Tánaiste participated in a discussion on the latest developments in some of Africa’s most troubled regions -the Great Lakes, Somalia and Mali - at the Foreign Affairs Council in July.

The EU is the largest donor to African countries providing approximately €21 billion in assistance annually, while Ireland channels some 80% of its development assistance to Africa. Together with other donor countries, we have worked particularly closely with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to put in place new systems to improve the way in which aid is delivered and to ensure that coordination on the ground is improved through enhanced monitoring systems. The EU, and Ireland as a bilateral donor, also provide very significant humanitarian support across Africa, in close cooperation with regional bodies, including the African Union.

Significant progress has been made on regional security with the support of EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions. Somalia is a good example of the EU’s Comprehensive Approach in action, with the Horn of Africa Strategy acting within the wider framework for EU action in Africa. One element of this approach is Operation Atalanta, the EU’s first CSDP Maritime Mission which aims to protect World Food Program and merchant shipping transiting the Gulf of Aden against piracy. Another element is the EU’s Military Training Mission which has been training Somali soldiers since 2010, and which is currently led by an Irish Mission Commander, Brigadier General Gerald Aherne. Last year a civilian maritime capacity building mission, EUCAP NESTOR, was launched, which is mandated to enhance the capacities of five countries in the Horn of Africa to tackle maritime security issues, including piracy. An initiative proposed by Ireland on enhancing the EU’s contribution to UN peacekeeping was further strengthened during Ireland’s Presidency of the EU earlier this year. Ireland has and will continue to deploy personnel to civilian and military EU and UN missions.